Thursday, September 18, 2008


My earliest memory of Kachori dates back to my childhood. A great aunt, an expert cook, was visiting us one summer. One such lazy afternoon she decided to treat us to some kachoris. I had never even heard of kachoris before and imagined she was preparing something truly exotic.

I still faintly remember the scene; my great aunt seated on the kitchen floor, expertly filling the stuffing into the crust and then flattening them into neat little kachoris, all while maintaining a steady stream of tales from here and there. Although the kachori left such a strong memory, I don't remember having it again......

One of the reasons I enjoy cooking is for the sense of accomplishment that it provides. I go about with a smug smile on my face, after trying out a dish that is not regularly made or after attempting a recipe that requires skill. (of course if they turn out well) Praise from grandma is an added motivation.

Thus I embarked on a kachori making adventure this afternoon. My recipe, as always, was a mash-up of multiple recipes with my own little variations. I like this site because the recipes are accompanied by a video, always helpful when you are not sure about "what should be the consistency of the batter" or "how dry should the filling be", etc. Needless to say I peeped in here before I got down to making my kachoris.

My kachoris turned out tasty but slightly chewy...wonder why!...was it because the crust should have been thinner? or was it because the temperature of the oil while frying was not right? Any guesses?

I served my kachoris with some homemade tangy tamarind-date chutney.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


There is something about the image (mental or real) of a colorful kite, cruising the sky, which always brings a smile to my face, and fills me with hope and positivism. Maybe it’s the bright colors or perhaps the bounce with which the kite moves in the sky. To me, a flying kite is a symbol of conviction and perseverance, virtues that we require to keep plowing through life, to achieve our goals and to turn our dreams into reality.

Kite flying is a popular sport in Northern India. I had only read about kites/kite-flying in books and seen the euphoric atmosphere surrounding Indian kite-flying festivities in the movies. So when I heard about the Berkeley Kite Festival, it wasn’t too surprising that I decided to go.
The festival was running through the weekend between 11 am – 2pm. We headed for Berkeley on Sunday after a quick brunch. Considering that it was summer and that the festival was in its 22nd year, we were expecting a crowd, but weren’t really sure of the size. As we neared Berkeley, we were able to see the big kites suspended for display. A friend had warned us about traffic in the area and tipped us about his parking woes. Sensing that we too were destined to similar fate, we turned back and found a parking spot in town, maybe a mile or two away from the park where the festival was running.

Long traffic lines near the festival area

Throngs of people, of all ages, walked towards the kite arenas. A group of musicians jammed, as onlookers swayed and clapped. The sky looked glum with no patch of blue and we were glad to be bundled up in layers. The monotone of the sky was broken by the colorful kites, some suspended for display and some drifted in the sky, like paintbrushes sweeping across a blank canvas with colorful strokes. While many, like us seemed to be there just to enjoy the scene or hang-out with friends and families, there seemed to be many photo enthusiasts, armed with cameras, from the simple point and shoot, to SLRs. Families with little ones had their own kites. It was fun watching children fly kites, their expressions darting between curiosity, focus and excitement.

Kite festival area

Musicians jamming

Some kites that were on display
After touring the arena for all the interesting looking kites, we stopped near the main arena to watch the kite ballet and synchronized kite flying. The kite flyers precisely controlled their kites to make it seem that their kites were moving to the music playing. I was very impressed by this display. The next scheduled program was the Rokkaku kite battle. As we waited near the fight arena, Arnold invited us and a few others to join the fight. I was excited that V would get to fly a kite. But unsure of my kite flying skills, I tried to excuse myself, citing photography as an excuse. But Arnold made me abandon my camera and handed me the line and gloves with “Taking pictures is no fun, flying a kite is”. So I dumped my camera and put on the gloves as Arnold gave us the “kite flying 101”. I got a cute looking sky-blue kite with pink daisies – numbered 34. “Maybe I am the the Rokkaku champ waiting to be discovered”, my delusional mind suggested. You see, my house number is 34 and my home phone number used to end in 34.

Arnold giving lessons
Either it was my non-combative nature interfering, or simply the fact that I couldn’t steer my kite, I was far from trying to get at the neck of other kites in the fight. The commentator commented on chickened fighters (apparently I wasn’t the only one! ) and challenged them to be more aggressive. Finally somebody noticed that it was time to send me home, my cutie kite tumbled down to the ground and that ended my dreams of becoming a Rokkaku champ. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
Next in line was the candy drop event. I was curious to see how they would do it and also hoped to get some nice pictures of kids scrambling for candy. Kids had lined up for the candy drop, the youngest ones (3 yr olds I think) with their parents. A bag of candy would be hoisted up on the kite line, the kite line would then be cut loose and the bag opened. Kids of a specific age group would be called in and they would run around scouring the ground for candy. Volunteers with bags of candy would throw some more candy on the ground just to create a ruckus.

Children lined up for the candy drop

We then made our way to the food stalls to get our candy, oops! fries. We had seen all that there was to see and decided there wasn’t much left to do.
Content at having done something new and fun, we bade good-bye to the kites.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Certain dishes leave an indelible impression on you, so much so that you crave for the same experience, everytime you eat the dish. Some set on a pursuit to find a restaurant that can guarantee them that experience, while some, (like me) undertake the challenge of appeasing their taste buds by replicating the flavors on my own - in my very own kitchen.

I fell in love with 'Dal Makhani' (DM) ever since I had it at a restaurant last year. Now, DM has become comfort food for me. This week I finally got down to trying it on my own. I read many DM recipes on the Internet. I didn't follow any particular recipe to the dot, but picked up ideas from all over. Here is my version, which turned out to my liking, except that it was a tad too hot for me.

  • Soak whole urad dal and rajma (red kidney beans) overnight. I measured the urad dal and then threw in some rajma.
  • Pressure cook the dals. I added salt while pressure cooking. I also dropped in a couple of bay leaves, a black cardamom, a cinnamon stick and a few cloves while pressure cooking, so that their flavors would be nicely absorbed by the dals.
For the puree:
  • Grind tomatoes-ginger-garlic-green chillies to a fine paste.
  • Heat oil for tadka. Add heeng, mustard seeds, jeera seeds when the oil is hot.
  • Saute finely chopped onions when the seeds start crackling.
  • Once the onions are done, add the puree and saute it till its cooked.
  • Add pepper powder, anardana powder, some turmeric powder and red chilli poowder (optional)
  • Add the dal and mash it slightly. Mix well.
  • Add water, salt (if necessary) and allow the mixture to simmer.
  • Add some milk and simmer for a bit.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander and a dollop of butter. I also used some chopped spring onions for the garnishing.

  • Remove the whole masalas from the dal once it is cooked, else, their flavor can be over powering.
  • Be careful with the spice. I used 4 ingredients (green chillies, pepper powder, red chilli powder and cloves) and a bit too much of the pepper powder.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I wish I were a kite that could fly high, high, high...

“Don't be afraid of opposition. Remember, a kite rises against, not with the wind.”
~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

What doesn't have wings but can fly?? - Kite (eesh that was baad). We had a good time at the Kite Festival in Berkeley this past weekend. If you are in the Bay Area and missed this one, fret not. Santa Cruz will be having a similar event in Sept. (13th, Saturday)


When I started running early this year, I used to put on my regular sneakers and go for the runs. I had a goal of being able to run 5K on a regular basis and wanted to reward myself for achieving that goal. What better reward than a good pair of running shoes? Since the program was following a gradual progression to 5K, the longer runs did not come until towards the end of the program, and was able to get away running in my sneakers. But as I continued running 5K 3 days a week, I noticed that my feet hurt. That reminded me of the promise I had made to myself. I headed to a local running store and bought myself a good pair of running shoes.

My running shoes - Nike Air Pegasus
Now my feet don't hurt and I feel a marked difference in the running experience from before. Here are some things that I learned while shopping for my running shoes.
  • A running store helps - I had a very good shopping experience at my local running store. The sales people were real runners. They started off by identifying my foot type and suggested the best shoes for my foot type. I was able to get a real feel of the different shoes I tried, by running around the store or on the treadmill in the store. They gave me all the guidance that I needed to choose the right kind of shoe, without being pushy about making a choice. I would highly recommend going to a running store where one can get personalized attention over buying something at the mall.
  • Your running shoe should be a size bigger than your regular shoes. Our feet expand on running; the bigger shoe size gives your feet some room to move.
  • Mesh-work on the shoe is an indicator of a good running shoe. The mesh allows your feet to breathe which helps, since feet get hot and sweaty during a run.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, CA
I see a dragon. What do you see?

The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.
~ Henri Bergson

Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think depends upon what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our reality.
~ Gary Zukav

‘One new perception,
one fresh thought,
one act of surrender,
one change of heart,
one leap of faith,
can change your life forever.’
~ Robert Holden

What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what sort of person you are.
~ C. S. Lewis.

Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
~ Marcel Proust.

People only see what they are prepared to see.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.
~ Anais Nin

Monday, July 28, 2008


Monday, Day 3: I feel most tourist places in America are overrated. Most disappoint me upon arrival. But what I admire is their smart marketing attitude. I wish the Indian tourism industry learnt a thing or two and used it to promote all the wonderful places that are really worth the visit. Anyhoo, so I am always seeking travel experiences beyond the usual and much-touted. So it won’t be surprising that I decided to take the ride aboard the Skunk Train. I will give anything for opportunities that allow me to commune with nature and this promised to be one, I hoped. I had booked tickets in advance for the morning ride to Willits. As we lined to board the train for a 3 hour journey through the redwood forests, a train singer entertained us. The train had four compartments; two of them were regular compartments with seats, one of them was a pantry car, and the middle compartment was an open compartment (the best part about the train).

Skunk Train arrives
No sooner had the journey begun than people, especially those with kids started making way towards the open compartment. We hoped that the crowd’s enthusiasm would wane soon. We could then go to the compartment and enjoy the views with fewer people. But it was hard to sit inside and we soon headed out. The train moved along the winding tracks and took us deeper and deeper into the redwood forests away from civilization and any of its signs. It was cloudy and therefore slightly cold, but every once in a while the sun would come out and bathe the canvas before us in its glow.

People enjoying the open car

The lady in the uniform was our train conductor
We got down at Willits and while the engineers worked on attaching the engine to the other end of the train, people enjoyed their picnic lunches, kids danced to the train singer’s songs and I between taking pictures tried to take in as much of the quaint setting as possible. Technical glitches delayed our start back from Willits, but I don’t think anybody minded the delay. I would recommend highly recommend this ride if you are a nature lover – worth every penny!
Picnic tables at Willits

We were really hungry by the time the train got us back to FB. We spotted a small Mexican restaurant and decided to try our luck. The lunch was excellent. With happy hearts and stomachs we bade farewell to FB. Traffic was unusually good and we were home in time for dinner.

A journey that will be fondly cherished


Sunday, Day 2: Mary had predicted that since the ocean water looked blue on Saturday, Sunday would be clear and sunny. How glad we were to see that her prediction was correct. After a good breakfast at our BnB we headed out. We are regular hikers and wanted to try something different this time. We were hoping to rent bikes and bike along the 10 mile trail. We walked to the bike rental shop in town and were surprised and also disappointed to find it closed. With tourists flocking the area for the long weekend who would have expected the shop to be closed!?

Tops of buildings in FB

Oh well, so we got into the car and headed to some nearby SPs. We hiked at Russian Gulch SP and Van Damme SP. Russian Gulch offered some nice views of the ocean. We stopped by Mendocino for lunch; I was really disappointed with it. I guess previous night’s dinner had got my expectations high.

Views from the SPs we visited

I was really excited about visiting the Glass Beach. The beach area was used as a dump ground for many years until authorities decided to stop that. Over the years, the pounding surf smoothened the glass trash dumped here. Visitors will find the beach sprinkled with smooth glass pebbles that glisten in the sun. I think years of visitors and lack of new glass trash has reduced the glass on the beach; at least I thought it wasn’t easy to spot. I combed the beach for the glass pebbles and got some home as souvenirs of this trip.

Glass at Glass Beach

I really wanted to do the 10 mile trail hike, but having hiked for the better part of the day and gotten good views of the Mendocino coast, I gave up on the hike. I doubt if it the views would have been too different than what we had seen during the day.

We walked along the Pudding Creek Trestle before returning to the comforts of our BnB.

Pudding Creek Trestle and views from the Trestle

I didn’t want to take any risk with my dinner, so we headed to good old Subway. I also wanted to try the local ice-cream (that seemed popular). We grabbed some ice-cream from the Cowlick’s store and rushed back to the Pudding Creek Trestle. We were just in time to see the sun go down. Overall a very satisfying and fun day.

Local popular ice-cream store

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Most holidays in India celebrate festivals and so are synonymous to family get-togethers, celebration and the general hullabaloo and enthusiasm that is so quintessentially Indian. As immigrants living in a foreign country, holidays are best utilized, traveling. (if you ignore the rising gas prices that is).

Summer comes with its share of long weekends. We unlike others in this country are always a (?) step behind when it comes to planning trips. It is well-known that, planning in advance ensures that, you get good deals on flights, hotels, etc. But we are one of those people who are doomed to pay more while others seem to miraculously spot deals. We have discovered that procrastination comes with its share of joys. It tends to eliminate options automatically as economically nonviable. Thus, when it is time to make the decision, one is left with fewer choices and the final choice is an obvious one in most cases. As someone wise once said, 'Time is money'. By procrastinating, we like to believe that we save our most precious asset, time, and thus compensate for the extra money we pay for last minute bookings.
When we started thinking of traveling for the long weekend in May, we realized that all the cheap flights and hotel rooms were already taken. So, we decided to head to a place that was within 3-4 hr driving distance from home, and zeroed in on Mendocino. Our planning timeline automatically eliminated flight search from our task-list. However, we did need to find a place to stay. And so began the seemingly never-ending search for the same. We decided to stay in a bed-n-breakfast (BnB) kind of accommodation and grabbed the last available room at the Atrium BnB in Fort Bragg (FB). We felt there was more to do in FB than in the town of Mendocino (10 mi. south). It goes without saying that our lodging decision was aided by the fact that, the Mendocino hotels within our budget were all booked.

The BnB where we stayed
Saturday, Day 1: Rain showers and traffic delayed our journey. We took a slight detour and visited the Pt. Cabrillo light house before making it to FB. We would have liked to see the Fresnel lens there up close, but gave up on that since those tours are not scheduled regularly.

Pt. Cabrillo Lighthouse

Mary, our host at the BnB welcomed us warmly and showed us around. While we relaxed in the garden behind the house with some tea (did I mention the yummy chocolate chip cookies?), Mary offered us hotel recommendations and provided us with ample information about things to do. Later we headed out for dinner, to the highly recommended Nit’s CafĂ© which was indeed excellent. A walk after that hearty meal was much needed and we took a stroll around town.
FB is a sleepy town (wikipedia calls it a city) along the rugged coastline of Mendocino. It has a small town look about it which sometimes borders on being lackluster. I was relieved to not see any jazzy stores/malls and the lack of homogeneity that is a trademark of any US community. Our BnB housed a small DVD library. We borrowed some DVDs but soon called it a day, hoping the next day would be warm and sunny.

Nit's cafe for yumm dinner

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Taken aboard the skunk train during a recent trip to Fort Bragg, CA.

If you miss the train I'm on, you will know that I am gone,

You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles,
A hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles,
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.....

P.S. - Hindi film music aficionados...did the song sound familiar? Try listening to this song from the movie Jurm.

Monday, April 28, 2008


My body had gotten into a nice rhythm. A breeze sent a heavenly waft from the citrus blooms along the running trail.
I came to the narrow sidewalk under the bridge. I disliked this patch - it was very narrow, barely wide enough for two people to walk comfortably. Many times there would be a water puddle or contents of a discarded cup lying around. This would require me to slow down and watch my step. I imagined bats lived here, in the dark corners, where light wouldn’t reach. As I passed by here, I would be concerned that a bird would send its poop on me. I disliked it even more when I would see a dog owner walk with a mean looking dog from the opposite direction. I would slow my pace as the duo approached, fearful that the dog might grab my ankle if I were running. But the dogs here are too well behaved; it would pass by without even sniffing and I would heave a sigh of relief. My breath would quicken when I would spot a hulky male coming from the other side. On such occasions, I would try to recollect some prayers, only partially meet his eyes and move away as quickly as possible, always checking my shoulder. The road under the bridge was usually busy with traffic and there wasn’t a remote possibility of anything happening. But such is my mind….
It is on this queasy patch that I saw her. I came across a chubby kid first. I wondered why he was alone without a guardian. Then at the far end of the tunnel, I saw a tall figure entering. “May be that’s his mother” I thought. But in a flash of a second I realized that she was THE 'snake girl'. I bolted…
She is fair, blonde, tall and walks gracefully. The two times that I have seen her, she was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Slung across her shoulder like a backpack was a snake, a python I think. A friend had pointed her to me when we were driving, but I didn’t see her then and it probably didn’t register.
After a few days, I was walking back home after my evening walk. I saw a girl walking towards me. From a distance it appeared like she was carrying a backpack. She was probably 20ft away when it hit me that it was a snake and not a backpack. It was more out of disgust than fear that I turned around and ran to find my friend, eager to tell her what I had just seen. I was a little excited that evening after this episode, but I laughed at myself as I recounted the incident to many. I decided I would stop, talk to her and have a good look at her snake the next time our paths crossed. I far from stopped during our 2nd encounter, I probably ran faster than before.
Every time I am under this narrow, dimly lit bridge or approaching a blind corner, my mind turns to this girl and I worry - will she emerge?

Friday, April 18, 2008

AN EVENING TO REMEMBER what the evening of 1st June will be, given that the maestros are performing!

Monday, April 14, 2008


No false promises, hidden charges or anything in the fine print. For details click here.

I'd appreciate if you could spread the word :)

Point Reyes National Park, CA

....the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can't eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours—all you can do for eight hours is work.....

—William Faulkner

Friday, April 11, 2008


I sit slouched on the couch, laptop on my lap, meaninglessly surfing the internet and refreshing my email page every five minutes or so. I look back at the clock on the wall. It is 5 o’clock. On any other day, I would be outside my apartment complex waiting for you to go to the park for a walk or a run. But today is different - I ignore the clock’s toll and sink even deeper into the couch. I don’t feel like heading out; not yet. 45 minutes later I have overcome my inertia and I head out. I consider carrying my iPod along but instead take my cell phone.
I take a deep breath and start walking. I pause briefly outside your apartment, as if waiting for you to emerge – silly me! I have an idea; I call your cell phone, only to reach your voicemail. Just as I am telling myself to gear up to be alone henceforth, you call. We chat for a little bit, then, you hang up and I am alone again.
I don’t spot many familiar faces on the trail today. But when I do see one, I smile at them eagerly, hoping they stop me and ask about your absence. None does. With no one to point new flowers to, or share the excitement over spotting a new bird, or exchange notes of domesticity and satisfy the inherent girlish (or womanly) need to babble, the trail seems to stretch longer than usual. I try to focus my mind on something other than our times together.
I get back home after an hour that seemed painfully long. No extra gossip time at your apartment steps today, nor any beseeching to stop by for a cup of chai. Hmm..I’ll brew my own chai or even better, make myself some lemonade from the lemons you left for me… :)

Monday, April 07, 2008


We went hiking at Point Reyes NP this Saturday and ended up doing the Woodward Valley Loop (~13mi./21km)! We hadn't planned on a particular trail and took up trails hoping to catch some wildflowers or seeing the ocean and thus ended up doing such a long hike. Bear Valley Trailhead was where we started our hike. The trail was wide and foresty with occasional meandering streams along the way. But what fun it is to hike on a level trail!? So we climbed up the Meadow Trail to Sky Trail. We continued to Woodward Valley and then went down to Coast Trail. As we traversed hills, the blue ocean views only got bigger and bigger. We took a break for lunch and then continued on our hike. We got back on the Bear Valley Trail on which we took another short break at Divine Meadows. We spotted a herd of deer at a distance. I was hoping they'd do some sprinting for us, but they were in no mood for that, since they did not budge. The hike wasn't too strenuous (no drastic elevation changes); of course we were exhausted after being out all day, but it was all worth the wildflowers, deer we spotted, the bird songs we heard and the clear views of the ocean.

I wish I had taken many more flower pictures, oh well...I need help identifying the 1st two flowers in this post. These we spotted on the Bear Valley Trail, two bright little things all by themselves. They were right next to each other and kind of similar yet so different....I'd appreciate if you could point me to their names....

Sky Lupine
Indian Paintbrush

Blue eyed Grass

Iris douglasiana (Douglas Iris)

P.S. - We avoided the restroom at Divine Meadows, hoping to use the ones outside the Visitor Center. But that was a bad idea, since the Visitor Center was closed and the restrooms locked by the time we got there! (6pm-ish)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


We were hiking at the Henry Coe State Park last Sunday. The drive to the park is beautiful. The surrounding mountains were green from the earlier rains and in patches dotted with yellow and orange wildflowers. The last part of the drive was along a narrow winding road that kept going up steadily and offered some lovely views.

Newspaper articles about the possible abundance of spring wildflowers this year had gotten me quite excited. So we chose trails that promised us wildflowers. My ideas of floral abundance were not quite met, but maybe we were too early for them. Our camera batteries conked off just a little after we started taking pictures. Anyways, here are a few that we managed to capture...

California poppy

Miniature Lupine (?)

Mountain Violet

Monday, March 31, 2008


I had been craving for some tangy green tomato chutney for quite some time, but I never saw any green tomatoes at the local grocery stores. I had some nice, green tomato salsa at S's place and then I couldn't take it anymore. L suggested I look for Tomatillos in the stores. Last week I found the green tomatoes at the Indian grocery store. I asked the clerk there if they stocked any green tomatoes. He gladly took me to a box full of green tomatoes that he had stowed away fearing nobody would want them!!

Armed with the perfect, sour green tomatoes I turned them into this spicy-sweet n sour chutney.

The secret of life? The secret's in the sauce.

I am an absolute bum when it comes to writing down recipes. G, you asked for it ;)

  • Roast some sesame and cumin seeds.
  • Roast some garlic cloves and green chillies with just a little bit of oil.
  • Roast coarsely chopped chunks of green tomatoes till they soften. Optionally you can saute them in oil. In order to save my non-stick pan I added just a little bit of oil. You can also add onions if you wish.
  • Grind the ingredients together after adding salt and sugar as per taste.
  • For the tadka - Heat a little bit oil (may be like a tablespoon). Add asofoetida, mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to crackle, add methi seeds, curry leaves and dried chillies.
  • Pour this over the ground mixture.
  • Garnish with cilantro.


Holi is an important Indian festival celebrated enthusiastically almost all over the country. To most Indians, the word Holi conjures images of people spraying color and water on each other, but my Holi is always sans colors. Until a few years ago my family used to light the traditional Holi bonfire in our front yard. Neighbours would gather and we would enjoy the warmth of the fire along with multiple rounds of sweet, wet coconut as 'prasad'. Often we would toss potatoes and onions in the fire and later savor these roasted veggies. In our effort to be as green as possible, we no longer have the bonfire in our yard. Instead we go to the community bonfire in our society.

This year's Holi was away from home. I did miss the bonfire and the festive spirit, but I tried to ring in some cheer by making the traditional Holi fare - puranpoli. Here are some images of our Holi meal.

Corn Pakodas

Puranpoli and Katachi aamti

Potato bhaji